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Why Calling Yourself Fat Doesn’t Work and How to Stop

By Karen Donaldson September 23, 2023 Health and Fitness

If you’re like so many of the women I work with, you struggle with negative self-talk when it comes to your body. Perhaps you call yourself fat, gross, disgusting… or even worse names.

And sadly, most of the women share that they’ve been saying mean things about themselves from a very young age.

Where Does All of This Negative Self-Talk and Harsh Judgment Come from?

Much of it comes from comparing ourselves to others we see on various media sources. But many of us also learned this from parents, family members, coaches, healthcare providers, partners, and society in general. It’s everywhere.

We’ve been led to believe that if we are harsh and mean to ourselves, we’ll somehow be motivated to change.

Or maybe we just never learned what it looked like and felt like to speak kindly about ourselves.

Take Barbara for Example

Barbara was shocked when she recently discovered a photo of herself at age 11. She played sports and had a strong and healthy body. She definitely was not overweight.

But her mom was convinced that she was fat and wanted her to lose 10 pounds before starting junior high school.

Barbara lost a pound or two, but it wasn’t enough. Her mom took her to the doctor, and he prescribed a diet pill (an amphetamine). And so it began.

We Create What We Believe

The belief was created in her subconscious mind. Barbara was “fat” and she needed to be thin.

The messages from her mom continued to strengthen this belief throughout the years.

  • Gifts of clothing that were too small. “Don’t worry, you’ll soon be that size,” she would say.
  • “You have to be thin and have a nice figure to be accepted and desired… especially by men,” was a central theme in the home.
  • Numerous magazine articles highlighting how to be “model-thin” were read.
  • Mom being terribly depressed when she gained a size after menopause.
  • Mom passing at age 76, still wearing her Victoria’s Secret plunge bra and thong undies.
  • Finally, mom never being happy with Barbara’s body.

Barbara loved her mom dearly, but these messages set her up for a lifetime of body image issues, relationship struggles, dieting and emotional eating, and never feeling good enough.

Perhaps you can relate?

What messages did you receive about your body growing up?

How negative is your self-talk?

How Negative Self-Talk Affects You

Thinking and saying harsh things about your body reinforces the negative beliefs that are in your subconscious mind and makes them even stronger.

As a result, you end up feeling worse about yourself and gaining more weight.

So, What Can You Do?

The first step is to take an honest look at the beliefs you have about your body and your weight. Pay attention to the thoughts you have about your body and the language you use to describe your body to yourself or to others.

What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? How would you describe your body to another person? How often are you thinking negative thoughts about your weight and your body during the day?

Recording this information in a journal can be uncomfortable, but it’s a good way to help you discover what your beliefs are about your body. If you say or think something often enough, it becomes a belief. And once these thoughts become a belief, the beliefs can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Negative Self-Talk and Negative Beliefs Are NOT Motivating!

In all my years of helping women let go of their negative self-talk and negative beliefs, I’ve never once had anyone tell me that the thoughts and beliefs were motivating. In fact, it’s always the opposite. Because you believe these words to be true, you end up feeling defeated and sabotage yourself.

The great news is that you truly can let go of the negative beliefs that are sabotaging you. Over the past several decades, science has shown us that we can change our beliefs. And we replace them with beliefs that help us feel good about ourselves and our body.

I’m happy to report that Barbara is having amazing success doing this!

  • Instead of engaging in negative self-talk about her body, she speaks kindly to her body with words of appreciation.
  • Instead of eating junk foods, she mindfully chooses foods that work the best for her body.
  • Instead of running from relationships, she is feeling safe to attract loving people into her life.

Letting go of your negative thoughts and beliefs about your body is a powerful step on the path to loving your body and loving your life. You can start your journey by watching my free workshop How to Stop Cravings and Emotional Eating So You Can Lose the Weight and Keep It Off.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What negative self-talk have you used through the years in relation to your body and self-image? When did this practice begin? How did it start? Have you started turning the negative into positive?

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Jean Renfro Anspaugh

I accept the word fat, Clearly it is a powerful word or people would not use it to belittle others. I refuse to give the power of the word fat away! I took it back and wear it proudly. Back when I was on book tour, interviewers would have me say the title of my book, because they said they would get hate mail and death threats if they used the word. So I did use it every change I got.

Jean Renfro Anspaugh
author of Fat Like Us

Karen Donaldson

Hi Jean. It sounds like you found a way to make the word work for you. Good job! Unfortunately many of the women I work with put their happiness on hold until they lose weight or get rid of their “fat” label and I help them love living their lives right now instead of waiting for some number on the scale. Best wishes to you Jean! Karen


I think I’ve been saying negatives about myself since I was a teenager. It got worse as I got older and would yo yo diet. I have negative self talk all of the time and trying to change

Karen Donaldson

Hi Celine. I’m so sorry you haave been doing this for so long. It definitely starts at an early age. And glad you are trying to change. If I can help, please let me know. This is something that I help women with all the time. And it’s so nice to be free from all that negative self talk! You can learn more with my free workshop at


I would like to take your seminar..but not available the dates offered..will you have others?

Karen Donaldson

Hi there! Thanks for writing. If you register to watch the seminar but can’t make it you wil get an email with a link for a replay that you can watch when it’s more convenient for you.


I just recently saw a photo of myself with an old boyfriend. He always made me feel insecure and when I look at that photo, I see a strong, beautiful women, small, in fact compared to him, physically. Not fat. Not too thin, just right. I looked back at some of my childhood photos and wondered why I always felt way too big, fat, and ugly. My mother was part of that too. I remember once she told me I looked, “as big as a barn”. Those words stay with you. I’ll never be a size 6 or 8, but I am healthy and can do more than most on my little farm at age 63. I build things, garden, swim, bike, kayak, etc. It is sad what we do to young girls, even now when we know so much better.

Karen Donaldson

Hi Nancy,
I 100% agree it’s sad what we do to young girls… and it clearly stays in our minds for the rest of our lives. I am so glad you are enjoying your life with farming, gardening, swimming biking, and kayaking – yeah! If I can help you with anything please let me know. And thanks for commenting! Karen Donaldson

The Author

Karen Donaldson helps women stop their cravings and emotional eating so they can lose the weight and keep it off. She is a Registered Dietitian, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Certified Weight Loss Coach, Emotion Code Certified Practitioner and a Weight Loss Mindset Expert. Learn more at

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